Attendees relax in one of the event’s common areas. Image via Art Basel.

In early December, tens of thousands of jet-setting art enthusiasts, collectors and gallerists flocked to Miami Beach for Art Week.

It’s a sprawling upscale festival consisting of dozens of art fairs, openings and gallery exhibitions scattered across the South Florida city.

For the past 13 years the annual show has been anchored by Art Basel Miami Beach, the American outpost for the renowned Swiss art fair.

With an estimated three billion dollars’ worth of art up for sale and a financial services firm, private jet company and luxury Swiss watchmaker among the leading sponsors, the week-long affair has become a destination for luxury brands hoping to woo high-net-worth attendees.

As Stefano Tonchi, W Magazine editor-in-chief, told Ad Week, “The people who are buying a Murakami or a Koons are probably the same people that are going to buy a $50,000 Louis Vuitton bag in collaboration with Rei Kawakubo or a punching bag by Karl Lagerfeld.”

Whether it was through pop-up boutiques or luxury branded experiences, I noticed several brands that managed to position themselves as supporters of the arts while communicating their messages to the art and design community. Here are my takeaways from the event.

Luxury publications can make an impact by bringing their content to life

Each day various arts, fashion and design magazines hosted events for the high-end crowd.

V, Vanity Fair, Visionaire, Paper, Interview and Harper’s Bazaar all made a go of it, but two specific activations stood out for their ability to engage a wide group of visitors while providing a standout experience.

For the past two years, American design publication Surface Magazine has been hosting “Design Dialogues,” or panel conversations between leaders in the creative communities. This year, the magazine outdid itself by hosting two Design Dialogues in one day, with help from sponsors Pratt Institute, LG Electronics and Corzo Tequila.

Starting in the morning, artist Julian Schnabel and interior designer and restaurateur Michael Chow spoke with Surface Magazine’s executive editor Spencer Bailey at an intimate brunch atop the Soho Beach House, a global private members club for creative types.

Later on, performer FKA Twigs and artist Alex Israel spoke with Hans Ulrich Obrist, author and co-director of London’s Serpentine Gallery, at the brand new Yabu Pushelberg-designed Edition Hotel.


Hans Ulrich Obrist (right) discusses the cross section of art and design with FKA Twigs (centre) and Alex Israel (left). Image via Surface.

Meanwhile Architectural Digest worked with interior designer and television personality Thom Filicia to create the Architectural Digest Oasis at the James Royal Palm hotel.

Intended to provide a retreat to guests during the busiest days, the venue merged luxury lifestyle and design brands through installations and pop-up boutiques.

Quartz countertop brand Caesarstone hosted the opening – with their custom-made bars anchoring the space – alongside displays from luxury brands Lladro, Porsche, Dyson and Dedon. Art from Indiewalls and Soicher Marin adorned the venue’s walls.

Both of these activations allowed the publications to create a captive audience while engaging in sponsor-driven experiences.

Bring the audience to the product

Faena, an Argentine real-estate developer, hotel and art brand is expanding to Miami with its ultra-luxury Faena Hotel Miami Beach and residences.

The company leveraged this year’s fair to announce the Faena Forum, an arts and culture centre designed by architect Rem Koolhaas.

The brand welcomed VIPs and media to the site of the future hotel for a series of Argentine asados and unveiled commissions from Studio Job, Manuel Ameztoy and Gonzalo Fuenmayor.

Guests relax at Faena's outdoor asado.

Guests relax at one of Faena’s outdoor asados.

By partnering with luxury carmaker Rolls Royce, Faena proved that creating a space where high-net-worth individuals can be wined and dined also makes for a perfect sales pitch, which in turn proved worthwhile, as Faena’s private residences are now nearly sold out.

Another carmaker making a splash at Art Basel was BMW, the official automotive sponsor.

For nearly 40 years, BMW has been running its Art Car program. The brand works with different artists to design and paint their vehicles, which are displayed each year at the fair.

This year BMW presented two of its legendary BMW Art Cars – the BMW 320 by Roy Lichtenstein (1977) and the BMW M3 by Michael Jagamara Nelson (1989).


Roy Lichtenstein’s 1977 Art Car, BMW 320i Gruppe 5. Image via Rennversion/BMW Group.

To supplement the presence of BMW Art Cars and its work within the creative community, BMW also established a global partnership this fall with private creative arts club Soho House.

And in one more display of value-driven branding, BMW offered shuttle service throughout the week in the BMW i3 to members and guests of the Soho Beach House.

These experiences proved that being brought directly to the product and being immersed in the offering leaves a lasting impression and leads to sales.

Turn your brand into a work of art

French champagne house Ruinart commissioned Scottish-born and Paris-based artist Georgia Russell to create a sculpture, which was displayed in the Art Basel VIP area.

Russell also designed a limited-edition glass champagne ornament, which was inspired by carvings on the walls of Maison Ruinart’s champagne cellar.

While artist-designed champagne bottles aren’t new, creating a unique casing at an art fair is an especially effective means of reaching the kind of people who would take pride in purchasing a product with clear links to the art world.

Since Ruinart has relatively low brand awareness in North America, the partnership was especially strategic.


Georgia Russell designed ornament for Ruinart Blanc de Blanc (right), Georgia Russell commissioned art piece (left). Image courtesy of Ruinart Champagne.

Whether it’s an automotive, real estate, alcohol, or media brand, there is plenty of opportunity for event marketing activations and experiences at Art Basel Miami Beach. All brands need to ask is: Are we offering an experience that no other brand can provide? and Are we adding value?

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